Computer Modelling of Marine Ecosystems: Applications to Pacific Salmon Management and Research

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Executive Summary

Fisheries ecosystem modelling could be a useful tool to complement present approaches to salmon research and management on Canada’s west coast. Ecosystem modelling refers to a computer application that simulates, through time, biological changes such as biomass, mortality, catch, feeding and competition in managed species. The models emulate such changes by considering factors like environment, predation, competition or fisheries effects. Because these models capture both ecosystem and species changes over time, they offer a potential guide to future changes.

This study examines ecosystem modelling and its relevance to fisheries management and research, and concludes that ecosystem modelling should be implemented alongside current salmon research and management techniques. To illustrate, a simple ecosystem modelling exercise using the Strait of Georgia displays the capabilities of ecosystem modelling.

The conclusion that ecosystem modelling be put into use for west coast salmon management is supported by three key facts. First, ecosystem modelling has developed into a discipline widely used by the research community. Second, British Columbia currently has local fisheries ecosystem models and model development taking place. Finally, fisheries ecosystem models are already in use by other jurisdictions to formulate research and management strategy.